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Jan Karski, mon nom est une fiction

Passing on the message

Disturbed by French author Yannick Haenel’s book Jan Karski and its bold illumination of aspects of the Shoah, director Arthur Nauzyciel has adapted it for the stage. A new video work by Polish visual artist Miroslaw Balka reinforces the scope and message of a production (presented at the opening of ‘New Settings 2011’) that is also an act of witness.

Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès - Jan Karski, mon nom est une fiction
© Frédéric Nauczyciel pour le CDN Orléans Loiret Centre

Why was Jan Karski – a member of the Polish resistance, and an Allied informer who braved appalling danger – unable to prevent the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto, and the extermination of the Jews, news of which he carried to the European powers and the United States? Part documentary history, part novel, Haenel’s book sparked considerable controversy. The stage production, premiered at the Avignon Festival in 2011, further fuelled the debate. Can (or should) fiction harness history in this way?

Arthur Nauzyciel – a theatre director with a background in the visual arts and film, steeped in his family’s wartime saga and the duty to bear witness – collaborates with one of Poland’s most striking contemporary visual artists, Miroslaw Balka, whose work asserts the right of the artist to examine and comment on history and the collective memory. Balka’s video work, embedded symbolically at the heart of Nauzyciel’s production, evokes the cover-up of the existence of the Warsaw ghetto, and the outrage this provoked. Jan Karski is a remarkable, perceptive contribution to ‘New Settings 2011’.

Through the confrontation of genres and artforms – writing, acting, staging – the creative artist is celebrated as a witness, courier and messenger. In Avignon, the silence greeting the close of each performance was as poignant as the drama itself. Message received…

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Jan Karski, mon nom est une fiction, after the novel by Yannick Haenel


Stage adaptation Arthur Nauzyciel
Production designer Riccardo Hernandez
Choreography Damien Jalet
Music Christian Fennesz
Lighting Scott Zielinski
Sound Xavier Jacquot
Costumes José Lévy
Video Miroslaw Balka
With Alexandra Gilbert, Arthur Nauzyciel, Laurent Poitrenaux, and the voice of Marthe Keller


Produced by the Centre dramatique national Orléans/Loiret/Centre
Co-produced by the Festival d’Avignon, Les Gémeaux Scène nationale de Sceaux, CDDB-Théâtre de Lorient Centre dramatique national, Maison de la Culture de Bourges Scène nationale, La Comédie de Reims Centre dramatique national, Festival Scènes d'Europe
With support from Région Centre, the Institut Polonais de Paris and the Fondation d'entreprise Hermès
With the participation of the Institut Français
With assistance from Théâtre TR Warszawa (Warsaw) and the support of the French Embassy in Poland.
In partnership with the Théâtre de la Cité internationale